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Washington Telecom Insiders Focusing on New ‘Broadband Moment’ Through Significant Policy Tweaks

in Broadband's Impact/FCC/National Broadband Plan/NTIA by

June 8, 2015 – Some are calling it a second “broadband moment.”

More than six years after  the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act was responsible for more than $7 billion in federal funds being spent on broadband infrastructure, internet adoption and telecommunications mapping, there’s a new level of interest in re-vising the National Broadband Plan, as laid out by the Federal Communications Commission in 2010.

Among the indicators:

  • There is widespread interest in municipalities and region tackling less-than-adequate broadband infrastructure, either through municipal construction, or through public-private partnerships.
  • The FCC’s recent changes to eRate eligibility rules open the door for “community anchor institutions” to build their own fiber connections, and to tap into newly-replenished FCC funds when they do so.
  • The FCC has also just launched an effort to revamp its Lifeline fund, which is the fourth major Universal Service Fund category to receive an overhaul in the past decade.
  • While lacking in substantial funds, the Commerce Department’s National Telecommunications and Information Administration continues to stake out a role in federal broadband policy. Jointly with the Agriculture Department’s Rural Utilities Service, NTIA has issues a “Request for Comment” for a wide-ranging public inquiry about expanding broadband deployment and adoption through the recently-established Broadband Advisory Council.

Each of these issues – municipal broadband, eRate changes, Lifeline reform, and the Broadband Advisory Council – will be covered this month in greater detail here in BroadbandBreakfast.com.

Last week, the Government Accountability Office released a report on “Intended Outcomes and Effectiveness of Efforts to Address Adoption Barriers are Unclear.” In it, the agency highlighted strong progress in bringing broadband to U.S. households, to 83 percent in 2013 from 72 percent in 2011.

At the same time, the agency noted that “adoption has increased, but a significant percentage of the population has still not adopted broadband, and non-adoption rates remain higher among populations such as low-income households and older Americans.”

GAO recommended that NTIA include an outcome-based goal and measure for its broadband adoption work in its performance plan and yet NTIA stated that such metrics are not appropriate for its efforts because these efforts are advisory.

This coming week, many broadband advocacy groups are focused on the Wednesday deadline for comments to Broadband Advisory Council through the NTIA-RUS request. The agency is seeking replies to more than 30 questions, which are grouped around the themes of:

  1. Overaching Questions
  2. Addressing Regulatory Barriers to Broadband Deployment, Competition and Adoption
  3. Promoting Public and Private Investment in Broadband
  4. Promoting Broadband Adoption
  5. Issues Related to State, Local and Tribal Governments
  6. Issues Related to Vulnerable Communities and Communities With Limited or No Broadband
  7. Issues Specific to Rural Areas
  8. Measuring Broadband Availability, Adoption, and Speeds

Comments are due by Wednesday, June 10. The NTIA conducted a webinar on May 20, and posted the presentation and transcript from the event.

Drew Clark is the Editor and Publisher of BroadbandBreakfast.com and President of the Rural Telecommunications Congress. His telecommunications-focused law firm, Drew Clark PLLC, works with cities, rural communities and state economic development entities to promote the benefits of internet connectivity. The articles and posts on BroadbandBreakfast.com and affiliated social media, including LinkedIN and the BroadbandCensus Twitter feed are not legal advice or legal services, do not constitute the creation of an attorney-client privilege, and represent the views of their respective authors.

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